Dolphin Patrol Funds Released

OCEAN CITY — In response to the “unusual mortality event” that has stranded hundreds of bottlenose dolphins along the mid-Atlantic coast since mid-summer including several in Ocean City, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has allocated more funding to step up patrols at sea and on land to monitor the situation.
NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement and Office of Protected Resources this week announced it was working together to increase state partner patrols in areas along the mid-Atlantic coast, including the coast of Maryland, that have been identified as areas needing increased scrutiny. Since July 1, 430 dolphins have been stranded along the mid-Atlantic coast. Two weeks ago, two dolphins stranded on the beach in Ocean City on back-to-back days.
Based on evidence collected to date, the dolphin deaths are believed to be attributed to a cetacean morbillivirus, which is characterized as similar to measles in humans or canine distemper in dogs. A large number of the recovered dolphins have been found with lesions on their skin, mouth and joints.
While the mortality event appears to have peaked in mid- to late August, the strandings have continued. A total of 85 were reported the week of Aug. 12 in the mid-Atlantic region including four in Maryland. During the week of Aug. 19, 92 strandings were reported including four in Maryland. In the week beginning Aug. 26, 75 more strandings were reported including nine in Maryland. Last week, however, the number had dropped to 11, including just one off the coast of Ocean City.
In an effort to address the issue, NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement has now allocated funding for its state partners for their assistance as part of the Cooperative Enforcement Program (CEP). The program aims to increase living marine resource conservation, endangered species protection and critical habitat. NOAA’s announcement this week creates an amendment to the CEP providing funds for mid-Atlantic states including Maryland for increased at sea and land-based patrols to identify dolphin strandings associated with the unusual mortality event.
Timely discovery of stranded dolphins provides an opportunity for stranding network responders to quickly get to the sites and collect fresh specimens. The belief is that quality data collection will increase the chances of identifying the underlying cause of the unusual mortality event.